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‘Our hearts are absolutely broken’: Aberdeen bistro Olive Alexanders permanently shuts

The owners says their decision was made after a tremendously difficult year, with problems caused by bus gates and increasing costs.

Olive Alexanders in Aberdeen
There was no sign of life at Olive Alexanders this afternoon, January 17. Image: DC Thomson.

Popular Aberdeen bistro Olive Alexanders and its associated basement bar Barbelow are both permanently closing.

The announcement has come after days of speculation from customers, including some who arrived at the bistro recently with reservations, only to find it shut.

Located on Golden Square – in the building that once housed Miro’s Bar and restaurant Granite Park – Emily Hailstones and Hayley Fisher opened the doors of Barbelow and Olive Alexanders in March and July of 2022 respectively.

Inside Olive Alexanders in Aberdeen
Inside Olive Alexanders. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Between the two venues, customers were able to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, fresh local produce, charcuterie boards, and high-quality cocktails, among other treats.

However, both venues haven’t opened their doors at all this year, and in a statement this afternoon, management confirmed they will not be opening again.

In deciding to close, they named a number of contributory factors, including the city’s bus gates and the increasing costs of running the businesses.

The cheeseboard option
The cheeseboard option. Image: Paul Glendell/DC Thomson

What are the Olive Alexanders owners saying?

In a statement, the team behind Olive Alexanders said their “hearts are absolutely broken”, but they had to “take the decision to permanently close our doors at Olive Alexander’s and Barbelow.”

It continued: “As a very small family run and funded business, the last year has been tremendously difficult with decreased footfall to the city centre, council decisions with bus gates, a distinct lack of investment for Union Street, increased costs of goods, essential items and energy.

One of the city centre’s many notorious bus gates. Image: DC Thomson.

“We couldn’t put up our prices to match the demand of all of this and consequently without a major injection of cash, we couldn’t keep this going.”

They also doubled down on what they argued are the negative impacts of changes to the city centre, including the bus gates.

The Olive Alexanders team said they even surveyed customers, who told them they’ve reduced their visits to the city centre “due to the increased parking fees and the ease of which the council issues parking fines, those awful bus gates and road closures”.

The Golden Square car park. Image: DC Thomson.

The team also highlighted customers raising concerns over being able to get a taxi home.

The news of Olive Alexanders closing comes soon after fellow city centre business Haigs shut, pinning a portion of the blame on fear of traffic fines in Aberdeen.

Concern for future of Olive Alexanders has been brewing for some time

Until this afternoon’s statement, Olive Alexanders have been very quiet online regarding their situation, with no hint at any issues posted on social media, and there have been no notices pinned to the closed doors of either venue.

It led to a bit of speculation over the future of the Golden Square venues.

Keri Taylor, who lives in Aberdeen, expressed concern on Facebook group Aberdeen Foodies this weekend after her own experience.

On Saturday, December 30 she made a booking for for five people on Saturday, January 13 at 11.30am.

A deposit of £15 was taken.

Keri Taylor
Keri Taylor. Image: Supplied by Keri Taylor

But when Keri and her friends turned up to the Golden Square venue on Saturday, she says the “door was locked and shutters were down”.

‘No-one is answering phones or social media’

Keri had previously visited Olive Alexanders and said she found it “really nice”.

“We always try to support smaller, local businesses when we meet up too, so it seemed like a nice choice.”

When she visited, she said there was another group of women at the door who also had a booking.

“[They] were as baffled as us,” said Keri.

The window shutters were down when we visited today. Image: DC Thomson.

“Our initial reaction was that you hope everything is okay.

“We haven’t tried to get our deposit back but we have been unable to contact them at all. No one is answering phones or social media.

“It is disappointing that they didn’t think to, at the very least, post on social media to let customers know that they would not be open.

“To turn up and find you have nowhere to go is disappointing.”

Locks on the gate to Barbelow

This afternoon The Press and Journal went by Golden Square to see what was happening at the venues.

Olive Alexanders, with closed doors
Olive Alexanders remains shut this week. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

Nobody answered the door, and there was no sign on the door explaining it was shut.

The gate leading down towards Barbelow was locked.

The gate to Barbelow
The gate to Barbelow. Image: DC Thomson.

A woman who works nearby told us she hadn’t seen anyone going in or out of either business since she returned to work after the New Year.

There were no signs of life at Barbelow either. Image: DC Thomson.

Concluding their statement this afternoon, the Olive Alexanders team suggested that if people want to continue supporting local, they recommend the Bartenders lounge on North Silver Street.

They added: “Independent businesses need the support, it’s a tough industry and Aberdeen has a good few independents who need all our support.”

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